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News Releases

January 25, 2024

COMMENTARY: Study permit allocations need to prioritize New Brunswick’s talent pipeline

Mary Butler, President and CEO, Ӱ̳ 

Earlier this week Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced that the number of international student permits for 2024 would be reduced by 35 per cent as part of a temporary two-year cap on foreign enrollment. The student permits will be allocated to provinces based on population and it will be up to each province to develop the criteria and the process for determining institutional allocations.

Much of the debate so far has focused on the impact on institutions; we need to focus on the potential impact on the province and its workforce.

At New Brunswick Community College (Ӱ̳) we are proud of our mandate to deliver programming which directly contributes to New Brunswick’s labour market needs and which aligns with the priority sectors identified by the provincial government. All of this is crucial in a province which faces 130,000 job openings over the next decade, largely driven by a wave of retirements due to our aging workforce. An estimated 65-70% of these jobs will require postsecondary education. For New Brunswick businesses and communities to grow – or even sustain current levels – we need a growing, well-skilled workforce. 

Ӱ̳’s international students play an important role in this. Since 2019, Ӱ̳ has seen a 150% increase in international students, to approximately 2,200 international students this year. We welcome more international learners than any other New Brunswick institution and, with our provincial mandate, we connect them with communities large and small, rural and urban. In some cases, strong international interest has enabled us to successfully launch new programming in sectors such as engineering and IT where we may need to build more awareness and interest among New Brunswick students.

But the real story for Ӱ̳ is not simply attraction of international learners; it’s in our retention after graduation. Three years after graduation one in two international Ӱ̳ graduates still lives in New Brunswick. For the next best-performing institution that rate is one in four. Practically speaking, that means that of those 2,200 Ӱ̳ international learners this fall, we can anticipate 1,100 of them will still be here in New Brunswick three years after graduation.

With all this said, we appreciate that in the current context, our approach to enrolment can't be growth for growth's sake. Ӱ̳ is aware that decisions we make can influence our larger communities. We have made a commitment to sustainable growth, taking a holistic view and ensuring we are ready to welcome students both in terms of our college capacity and the readiness of the communities we serve. In fact, we already had to make our own tough admissions and enrolment decisions and cancel programs in our recent winter intake based on that very consideration.

We hope the provincial implementation of the measures announced by IRCC will appreciate institutions and jurisdictions that are welcoming international students in responsible ways and making significant contributions to New Brunswick’s workforce. In making allocations, the provincial government must prioritize New Brunswick’s talent pipeline and not institutional bottom lines.